[img_assist|nid=1294|title=|desc=Anne Panter makes her return for Leicester (c) Andy Smith|link=popup|align=left|width=247|height=354]East Grinstead hold top spot in the England Hockey League men’s premier division with two rounds to go. The Sussex club knocked over third-placed Surbiton 4-2 on Sunday. Mark Pearn, Dominick Male (2) and Niall Stott (PC) scored for the home side. Matt Daly and James Tindall finished PCs for Surbiton.
That result, along with Beeston’s 3-0 home win over Bowdon, all but guarantees Beeston at least second place in the league. Reading’s 1-1 draw at Hampstead and Westminster did more damage to the home side than to Reading. Especially since Loughborough Student’s 2-2 draw at Brooklands MU denied the students a chance to leap ahead of Reading into fourth.
Next Sunday’s Reading(4th) vs Beeston(2nd) games and Surbiton(3rd) vs Hampstead and Westmister(6th) clashes look critical to the playoff places. Fifth-placed Loughborough Students play bottom-placed Canterbury who need to win to save their place in the top division.
In the women’s premier, Leicester consolidated their top spot with two home wins – 4-0 over Clifton on Saturday and 3-0 over Brooklands Poynton on Sunday. The results also mean Brooklands Poynton are relegated (they also lost 1-0 at Olton and West Warwicks on Saturday). Clifton are now in danger of having to repeat their relegation playoff battle of last year.
Leicester’s Saturday goals came from Rebecca Herbert, a Kerry Williams PC and two Hannah Macleod open play goals. Macleod (FG) and Herbert (1 PC, 1 FG) were in the goals again on Sunday.
The form team of the league are Reading who made it six league wins out of six since the winter break with a 4-3 defeat of University of Birmingham on Saturday. The students took a surprise 2-0 half-time lead at Sonning Lane with goals from Jenna Woolvern and Emily Atkinson. But Reading came back into the match through an Elizabeth Hunt open-play goal then three penalty corner goals in a row from England skipper Kate Walsh.
Birmingham’s loss leaves the early-season high-fliers four points behind Slough and the vital fifth championship playoff spot. Bowdon Hightown leapfrogged Slough into fourth place with a 2-0 defeat of the reigning champions.
Meanwhile second-placed Canterbury returned to winning ways, after last week’s loss to Reading, with a 4-0 win at ninth-placed Cannock. Natasha Brennan and Lucy Hyams scored two each for the Kent side.
Playoff places are very tight at the top in the women’s league. The Slough-Reading clash next weekend looks vital (a win for Slough could see the sides swapping fifth and third places). And University of Birmingham need to win a tough match against Leicester to keep in the playoff race. An away win for Leicester, who now lead the league by four points, would seal their first-place with one match to go.
There are pictures from the Reading vs University of Birmingham game in our gallery (thanks to Ian Wood). And pictures of Leicester vs Brooklands Poynton thanks to Andy Smith.
For full league tables and results: